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School Supplies - stocking up & supporting drives

The end of summer vacation is closing in on us quickly.  Last weekend, I took my rising fourth-grader and her classmate to the store to acquire all the items on their supply lists.  The stores (we opted for Fred Meyer's and Walgreens) were overwhelming with all their back-to-school displays, reams of paper, and boxes of Pee Chee folders.  Of course, they were all out of No. 2 pencils!  We carefully chose our items and surprisingly ended up with a bill that was half of what it had been in previous years.

Somewhere in all the school supply craze, I know I've seen signs for school supply drives.  I can recall only one organization, though: Schoolhouse Supplies is a nonprofit organization helps schools by providing free supplies, donated by businesses, to teachers of classrooms in need.  Their school supply drive started on August 1st, but there's still time to contribute before drives end on Labor Day.  Details on locations and participating businesses on the Schoolhouse Supplies website.

This year: where are you shopping for your school supplies?  Have you heard of community school supply drives that could use additional support?


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I am a supporter of Schoolhouse Supplies; they will accept donations year-round. Check them out at: https://www.schoolhousesupplies.org/

For my daughter's 11th birthday last year, in lieu of gifts, she held her own mini-school supply drive to benefit Schoolhouse Supplies.

My question is, where do you GO if you need help with school supplies (as a parent)? Our families helped us out a bit...but what if I wasn't able to get supplies for my kids? Do I just send them to school anyway and let the teacher worry about going to Schoolhouse Supplies? And meanwhile, my kid is left feeling different from her peers because she doesn't have school supplies?

It's a worthy cause -- but I think there should be a way for families to receive school supplies, too.

Schoolhouse supplies actually has an option to buy a family who needs help their supplies along with your own. It's totally anonymous, you just add it to your order and they deliver it on the first day of school. I thought that was really great. I don't know how one applies to get the supplies, but check out the website. My guess is that it has to do with qualifying for free or reduced lunches.

i just checked out the schoolhouse supplies website and it seems there's only a few schools listed, unless i'm missing a bigger list somewhere. and if i'm not mistaken, those schools are in fairly affluent neighborhoods. that's not to say those schools and some students who go there don't need the help, but in the past i've just located title 1 schools and donated directly to them. just a thought.
right now my children go to a title 1 school and the supply list consists of communal supplies, so when there's a good deal on something i buy a bunch of extras. they always send home one or two more requests for things during the year anyway.
i'd also like to remind people of the website http://www.donorschoose.org/ if anyone would like to directly help a classroom with other needs.

I'm pretty sure someone at the school has to sign up. Call your school administrators.

I love (for a variety of reasons) that our neighborhood school has the parents give the school $20 and then makes a bulk purchase for all of the classes. This is our first year at PPS and I'm curious what the average bill for school supplies is per kid for other parents?

Schoolhouse Supplies lets teachers "shop" (at no charge) for supplies in its warehouse, rather than using their own money to purchase classroom supplies.

The more affluent schools you see listed have signed up for a program through Schoolhouse Supplies whereby families can purchase a classroom-specific set of supplies for their own student--and profits on these sales go to Schoolhouse Supplies. As I understand it, those orders are NOT fulfilled through supplies donated to Schoolhouse, but through a third-party. Parents at participating schools can "one stop shop" and Schoolhouse Supplies benefits financially from it.

Like Shannon, when I can, or when I see great buys, I always pick up extras to send to school with my daughter. Kathleen, I had the same thought when I read my daughter's supply list--what happens to the kids that can't buy all of this stuff? My only thought is that you buy as much off the personal supplies list as possible, and make the community supplies list secondary.

I work at a hospital that does a school supplies drive for employees in need. Each department contributes and as an employee you can contribute or sign up to be a recipient. This year I couldn't contribute much but I think its a wonderful thing for a workplace to do.

For Kathleen-I think the school counselor is usually a gateway to assistance (i.e. with clothes closet, holiday help etc.).

I am the Marketing Manager at Schoolhouse Supplies and know first hand the struggle that many families have this time of year. Teachers are spending more then ever to help their students have what they need.

Schoolhouse Supplies has found a tangible way to impact this situation. To date our volunteer run Free Store for Teachers has provided $11.2 million in school supplies to classrooms in need.

If you have a child in the Portland Public School District, please communicate with your teachers so they can come and shop for the specific needs in their class.

As parents or community members you can also volunteer in the Free Store and earn a shopping trip for a teacher of your choice.

We have several programs going all year and want to clarify how we impact the Portland community.

Schoolhouse Supplies Online (SHSO) is geared toward more affluent families who can shop online and receive supplies from our wholesaler (not the free store) who we have developed a relationship with to get the best prices. This plays a part in our green mission to have parents avoid multiple trips to stores and limit the footprint of the school supplies by having the individual kits personalized and shipped directly to the schools.
This is where families can also donate to help other families in the PDX district - we received $20,000 from this program this year which will in return go back into our budget to support our programs like the Free Store.

Tools for Schools is our backpack giveaway program which targets schools with a 65% or higher Title I. Seventeen high need schools are sponsored this year, where every child in that school will receive a backpack full of supplies on the first day of school. Please see the list here: https://www.schoolhousesupplies.org/sponsors.html

Supply Drives are the main way we keep the shelves of our Free Store stalked and how you can make a direct and tangible impact in your community. Also, through our KGW Supply Drive donations made in your district (not just pdx) will stay in your district. If you are looking for support outside of pdx for school supplies i would encourage you to call your school and have your child's name put on a list for school supply assistance through this program.

If you have questions or ideas about any of these opportunities I would love to hear from you! Email me erin@schoolhousesupplies.org. Glad we could be a part of this very important topic. Thank you for your thoughts.

My boys will be going to Vestal where we are very fortunate because every student receives a backpack filled with all the school supplies they need. I was amazed by this last year when we moved here from Washington state where we always had a very extensive list of supplies we needed to buy including boxes of kleenex etc. I am definitely going to try and provide some supplies for the Teacher though because I know for example that my son's Kindergarten Teacher said anything extra she needs she provides and all the students share.

Thanks for answering my questions, Erin! I wonder if schools outside of PPS could get into the backpack giveaway program, too? I work in David Douglas and live in Parkrose, and I know there's a lot of need out here.

I'm out in the wilds of North Clackamas and much to my surprise, students at our school (Sojourner) are not asked to purchase school supplies. Instead, we are asked to give $25 to the school for supplies (or more money if we can to help children with limited incomes). Then the school takes the money and buys all the supplies they need - in bulk (at a better price). This not only saves money but ensures that everyone has access to the same community held, high-quality supplies. I think it is pretty cool.

My good friend teaches in Hillsboro and due to budget cuts the teachers no longer receive money, or get reimbursed for buying classroom supplies and there is no longer a supply closet with pens, pencils, crayons, etc. If my child went to school there and I had extra money to spend on supplies I would just get some extras for my child's classroom so the teacher wouldn't have to buy more pencils etc, out of his or her own money when the beginning of the year ones run out which happens very quickly.
I would check with your child's teacher and see if they could use extra supplies for the classroom.

As a teacher's wife - I greatly appreciate that idea! I imagine that we are going to be spending even more of our own money this year on supplies for his classroom. Thanks for being so thoughtful of teachers.

Expanding our backpack giveaway program outside of PDX is one that we have started talking about. If you have any leads on potential businesses who would be open to talking about sponsoring a school in the David Douglas area let us know!

I just have to share - my Aunt turned 60 on Monday. She asked everyone to donate a backpack with school supplies for her birthday in lieu of presents. The goal was 60. Last night she said that she was taking in 50 backpacks this morning for donation and that 10 others had been donated in other states. She Rocks!

Check this blog on the Metro Parent site - it's particularly for Vancouver area families - but it sounds like they'll also provide supplies for families from any area but you'll need to drive to Vancouver to pick them up:

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